Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The bloody transition of power in Madagascar

We have been watching for a few days now a bloody transition of power in Madagascar.

Madagascar's new president Andry Rajoelina has been installed by the military's actions. The nations military stormed the former President's palace where he was forced to resign.

From the International Herald Tribune, we get details of the overthrow, and reaction from the international community.

The nation's worst unrest in years killed at least 135 people, devastated a $390 million-a-year tourism sector and worried multinational firms with investments in its mining and oil industries.

The outcome was also a slap against the African Union, which has censured recent violent transfers of power that have damaged the continent's reputation with investors. Experts said Western donors could consider cutting aid to the world's fourth-largest island, but only in the short term.

"With so many people below the poverty line, I can't see the international community abandoning Madagascar in the long run, and he knows this," said Lydie Boka, of the Paris-based risk group StrategieCo, referring to Mr. Rajoelina.

While the military was crucial in installing the opposition leader, analysts said he also had the backing of Didier Ratsiraka, the exiled former president, and his allies. Some analysts said that France, the former colonial ruler, had also given him tacit support.

Mr. Ravalomanana's whereabouts on Wednesday were unclear. The opposition had accused him of corruption and of losing touch with the majority of the population who eke out a living on less than $2 a day.

There was a heavy military presence at the palace where Mr. Ravalomanana capitulated. A Reuters TV witness saw broken windows and furniture, as well as a crowbar lodged in the door of a safe. It was not clear whether departing presidential guards, the army or the public had ransacked the building.

For the new president's first speech, Rajoelina said that he would make poverty reduction a top priority. Corruption in the face of poverty is a factor in the whole transition to begin with.

From the paper Easy Bourse, this AFP story tells us Rajoelina's comments.

Madagascar's acting president, Andry Rajoelina, said Wednesday in his first speech since being swept to power by the army that fighting poverty on the island would be his priority.

"I will do everything I can to ensure that Madagascans are lifted out of poverty," Rajoelina told around 15,000 supporters during a rally in the capital Antananarivo.
"We will do everything we can to ensure that the standard of living of Madagascans starts improving as soon as possible," he added.

The 34-year-old leader, who was confirmed as acting president by the constitutional court earlier Wednesday, vowed to bring food prices down, notably rice.

One of the most symbolic measures he announced during his speech was his decision to sell outgoing president Marc Ravalomanana's plane.

"For the good of the Madagascan people, I will sell Force One," he said, adding that the money would be used "to establish a hospital for the people's health, which is a higher priority."

Force One is a Boeing 737 that Ravalomanana recently purchased from Disney World for $60 million.

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